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Berkeley, California orders free pot for poor patients

By Mary Papenfuss

BERKELEY California (Reuters) - A California college town known for its liberal activism has voted to make medicinal marijuana dispensaries give away free a small amount of their pot to the poor.

Berkeley City Council members voted unanimously late on Tuesday to instruct local outlets to provide marijuana equal to 2 percent of their sales to patients on low incomes.

"It's an equity issue," Council member Darryl Moore told Reuters. "We want to ensure that those who are in need have access to the medication necessary to treat their condition."

Under the law, which takes effect next month, the marijuana given away free must be of the same quality as that given to paying customers.

The rule defines low income as medical marijuana patients who make at most half the area's median annual income, or $32,000 or less for an individual or $46,000 for a family of four.

The council also amended its medical marijuana law to increase the number of pot dispensaries to four from three, and will consider upping that number to six next year.

Medicinal pot is a significant industry in Berkeley where the dispensaries paid nearly $640,000 in city taxes last fiscal year, according to official records.

Charles Pappas, a member of the city's Medical Cannabis Commission, said residents wanted to take care of each other.

"Our mantra is, 'The best medicine for the lowest possible cost for people in need,'" he said.

(Reporting by Mary Papenfuss; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Eric Walsh)

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